HL Deb 18 July 1957 vol 204 cc1337-56

2.19 p.m.

LORD DOWDING rose to draw attention to the present situation regarding painful experiments on animals; to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will institute an inquiry with a view to repairing the loopholes in the existing law and thereafter ensure by adequate inspection that the law is properly enforced; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is now nearly five years since I last spoke in this House on the subject of painful experiments on animals. Since that time the situation has scarcely altered, except that the annual number of experiments has risen from 1¾ million to 2½ million. Outwardly it would seem that my efforts were completely without effect, but such an assumption would not be altogether accurate. My speech was printed and circulated fairly widely in this country, and during the last six months I have received letters from Sweden and Austria telling me that it has been translated into Swedish and German, and has been circulated in Sweden, Germany and Austria. So it will be seen that often what is said in this House penetrates far beyond its walls. At any rate, it encourages me to bring the salient facts of the subject again to the notice of your Lordships. I do not wish to repeat my previous speech, but for the benefit of those of your Lordships who did not hear it I must briefly recapitulate some of the facts.

I must begin by making my own position perfectly clear. I firmly believe that painful experiments on animals are morally wrong, and that it is basically immoral to do evil in order that good may come—even if it were proved that mankind benefits from the suffering inflicted on animals. I further believe that, in the vast majority of cases, mankind does not so benefit, and that the results of vivisection are, in fact, misleading and harmful. However that may be, I realise that to-day it would be quite useless to ask that the practice of vivisection should be immediately abolished—that windmill is at present beyond the reach of my lance. But I am asking that some defects of the present law may be remedied, and that the law, as amended, should be properly enforced.

The first Royal Commission on Vivisection was followed in 1876 by a Bill called the Cruelty to Animals Bill. This Bill was humane in intention and in drafting. Its most important provision was that no potentially painful experiment should be carried out on animals without an anæsthetic, and that if an animal was likely to awake into a state of severe pain it should be destroyed while still unconscious. The Bill prohibited absolutely the performance of painful experiments on dogs, cats and the horse family. I have spoken of "the Bill", because during its passage through Parliament it was considerably modified. Various provisions were introduced which enabled almost every item in the Bill to be evaded. Seven different certificates were introduced, under which experiments could be performed without anæsthetics. For example, the animal need not be killed before recovering consciousness; and experiments without anæsthetics might be performed on dogs, cats and horses. All these certificates could be given if it was claimed that the object of the experiment would otherwise be frustrated. At a later date, after another Inquiry, terminating in 1910, the so-called "pain" clauses were introduced. These stipulated that if, during any of these experiments, the animal appeared to be suffering pain which was severe and/or likely to endure, and if the main result of the experiment had been achieved, then the animal should at once be painlessly killed. This, of course, was a futile provision, because, apart from the vivisector himself, there was no judge as to the intensity of the pain or its probable duration.

It was also laid down in the Amendments which were made to the law at that time that if it appeared to an inspector that an animal was suffering severe pain he might order it to be killed forthwith. That, too, was a dead letter, for there is no recorded case of any inspector ever having given such a direction. Nor, indeed, has any prosecution ever been carried out against any vivisector since the passing of the Act in 1876. It is true that offenders are occasionally admonished and warned, but that is generally owing to some irregularity in the certificates which they hold; and no penalty is attached to such warning or admonition.

Even if inspectors were anxious to carry out the spirit of the Act and to protect animals from pain, they would have a hopeless task. As I have said, there are now about 2½ million experiments performed every year in about 520 laboratories. To guard against breaches of the law in these 2½ million experiments there are no more than five inspectors—that is to say, each inspector has an average of 500,000 experiments to supervise in a year, and 100 laboratories to visit. Surely, my Lords, I have said enough to show that the law is riddled with loopholes, and that the whole inspection system is a hollow sham, maintained to throw dust in the eyes of critics and to salve the conscience of the apathetic.

There is another aspect of the present law which urgently demands attention. I refer to the absence of any adequate definition of what constitutes an anæsthetic. A true anæsthetic causes loss of all consciousness, sensation or feeling; and this was undoubtedly the sense in which the word was intended to be interpreted by the original Act. But in the Lancet, in the British Medical Journal and other professional publications, operations are described which have been performed under drugs that are not true anæsthetics at all. For instance, dial anæsthesia was used at Cambridge University during the tearing out of the eyes of cats. Dial is defined as a "sedative and hypnotic for nervous insomnia and to induce narcosis in conditions of severe agitation." Amytal was used when dogs had their abdomens cut open and horse serum injected to produce shock. Amytal is defined as a sedative and hypnotic and as a preliminary to surgical anæsthesia. Nembutal was used during the smashing of cats' legs with eighty to a hundred blows of a hammer. Nembutal is described as a basal narcotic in conjunction with inhalation anæsthesia. It is chosen for its brief duration of action. In this case it was administered one hour before the operation and so those cats had no palliative at all to their pain. Those experiments were carried out in Edinburgh.

Urethane is a mild hypnotic which produces normal sleep without after-effects. This was used instead of an anæsthetic during an experiment involving the repeated dropping of a metal rod on to the thighs of small rodents extended on a heavy anvil. That experiment was done at Oxford. Then there is the drug known as curare. That was at one time fairly extensively used in this country and is extensively used abroad to-day. It is not an anæsthetic at all; it is a paralysant which paralyses the animal so that it cannot struggle or cry out but it is left with all its sensations unimpaired. I am glad to say that the use of curare as an anæsthetic is forbidden in this country. At the same time, it is permitted in conjunction with another anæsthetic and, when it is used in conjunction with these so-called anæsthetics of which I have been talking, then you get paralysis of the animal and no dulling of the pain. These cases are all quoted from accounts written in the medical and physiological Press by vivisectors themselves.

When one asks oneself what goes on behind the closed doors of laboratories to which the public has no access, it is only reasonable to suppose that the most shocking experiments never appear at all in print to which the public has access. For instance, it is very rarely that painful experiments on dogs are reported at all, and yet there is a lively trade in dogs for vivisection laboratories. The Home Office return for 1955 records that there were 3,892 experiments on dogs, more than half of them without anæsthetics. Of course, it is pure sentimentality to claim for dogs, cats and horses an immunity from pain which is denied to other animals. All warm-blooded animals feel pain and all are equally entitled to protection. As I say, we have normally no means of knowing what goes on behind the closed doors of laboratories, but now and again the veil is lifted.

A London doctor told me that he read the speech which I made in this House in 1952 and he refused to believe that such things went on in this country. However, he was a fair-minded man and, being in a position to do so, he decided to find out for himself. He went first to Oxford where he had done some of his medical training, and there he found seven research laboratories in full blast. By virtue of his profession, he was able to obtain access to them and he found that my speech, so far from being an exaggeration, was an under-statement. He is now an ardent worker in the cause of anti-vivisection. What particularly struck him was the callous attitude of people who were otherwise normal, decent members of society; and also the absolute uselessness of some of the experiments. For instance, he found a young fellow engaged in the process of what is called "Siamesing" rats; that is to say, operating on them so that they were joined together and shared certain of their organs in common. He said to the young man: "What on earth can be the use of this experiment to humanity?" The answer was: "I do not know what good it is going to do to humanity, but I know what good it is going to do to me. It is going to get me my degree."

Another more or less accidental light was thrown on laboratory practices by a Sunday paper on April 14 of this year, under the heading "A Room of Horror". It gave an account of what a window-cleaner had seen during the course of his duties at the Birmingham University Medical School. I asked the editor of the paper if he would be kind enough to give me the name and address of the window cleaner as I wished to verify the story. This he kindly gave me, but was otherwise reticent. I was told afterwards that he had been threatened with legal action. The window-cleaner corroborated what had appeared in the paper. He said that he had seen small animals fastened to the table with pins. He had seen yelping dogs crawling about the floor with tubes sticking out of them, he had seen three dogs lying on the ground trying to catch drops of water from a dripping tap, and he had seen a live rabbit thrown into an incinerator by a girl student. The window-cleaner said that such sights had been commonplace for some years He had hesitated to do anything about it because he was afraid that his firm would lose the contract and that his mates would lose their jobs. But at last he could stand it no more.

Noble Lords may remember the great outcry in the Press about a year ago, when 300 monkeys were suffocated at London Airport in an ill-ventilated B.O.A.C. van. This incident supplies an excellent example of the illogical and sentimental approach of the British public, led by their Press, to the subject of the suffering of animals. The Times of India stated on September 6, 1955, that India's annual export of monkeys was a quarter of a million, and that more than half of that number came through London Airport. I do not attempt to excuse the callousness or the carelessness of the airline in handling these poor creatures, but where is our sense of proportion? Those 300 were the lucky monkeys: they experienced only about fifteen minutes of slow suffocation.

What happened to the others? Here are some of their experiences—the list is not exhaustive: exposure to radioactive material, prison gases, blast from high explosives, cosmic rays in plastic balloons, fifteen to twenty miles above the earth; brain operation, with or with anæsthetics; epilepsy induced by injections into the brain; projection into space in rockets; the production of cancer, dropsy, eye diseases, ulcers, guinea worm, infestation, polio, pneumonia, rheumatism, severe shock from fatigue or injury, sunstroke, the displacement of organs by operation; infection with anthrax, mumps, malaria, rabies, syphilis and yellow fever; and the testing of various toxic drugs. Yet about all this there is no newspaper outcry. We know a certain amount about what goes on at Porton in the way of subjecting animals to the fearful effects of various poison gases. We know a good deal less about what goes on at Harwell, where animals are subjected to various forms of radiation arising from the breaking down or building up of atomic nuclei.

Lastly, very little information is available concerning the vast modern trade in animal life and suffering involved in the wholesale manufacture and testing by big animal firms of so-called "therapeutic substances". Thousands of animal lives are expended every week in the manufacture of these drugs, and thousands more in their testing. There has never been any inquiry into the details of this trade; in fact, there has been no public inquiry of any sort into vivisection and its kindred questions for nearly fifty years.

I hope it will be agreed that I have established a case that the law is seriously defective in so far as the protection of animals from pain and suffering is concerned, and also that in any event an approved system of inspection and enforcement will be required. But before the law is amended it's surely necessary that an official inquiry into the present state of affairs should be instituted. A Royal Commission is generally rather a ponderous and slow-moving affair. I should like to ask that some form of statutory inquiry, calculated to give quicker results, should be set up, and that thereafter steps may be taken to amend the existing law and to ensure its adequate enforcement.

I cannot leave this subject without some reference to its esoteric side—to the place of the animal kingdom in the scheme of things, to man's responsibility to animals, and to the results of man's failure to meet this responsibility. As the human race evolves, it becomes ready for fresh revelation, and the defect in most of the world's religions is that they fail to realise this very important fact. The priests are inclined to say "everything that is necessary for salvation is contained in this Book. It is unnecessary and, indeed impious, to search elsewhere." It is, I think, this aspect of our childhood's teaching which leads to the idea that animals have no continuing life after physical death. That phrase in the 49th Psalm: The beasts that perish has much to answer for, for it is a fact that the beasts do not perish any more than do men. All life is one, and all its manifestations with which we have contact are climbing the ladder of evolution. The animals are our younger brothers and sisters, also on the ladder but a few rungs lower down than we are. It is an important part of our responsibilities to help them in their ascent, and not to retard their development by cruel exploitation of their helplessness.

What I am now saying, if people would realise it, is of very great practical importance, because failure to recognise our responsibilities towards the animal kingdom is the cause of many of the calamities which now beset the nations of the world. Nearly all of us have a deep-rooted wish for peace—peace on earth; but we shall never attain to true peace—the peace of love, and not the uneasy equilibrium of fear—until we recognise the place of animals in the scheme of things and treat them accordingly. So, my Lords, here is yet another argument in support of my Motion. If we have not yet reached the stage when we are willing to dispense with animal experimentation, let us at least ensure that pain and terror are eliminated to the fullest possible extent from our treatment of the animals. Let there be an open inquiry into present conditions in the experimental and manufacturing laboratories. Let the present law be amended in accordance with its findings, and let there be organised an adequate system of inspection and enforcement of the law as so amended. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I confess to having reflected during the past few minutes on the appositeness of delivering a maiden speech on a Motion dealing with painful experiments on animals, and I can but hope that this Motion has in that respect no sinister forebodings. As your Lordships will have gathered from the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, there are few topics which arouse deeper emotions than that of vivisection. Yet there are few which are more pregnant with decisions which affect the welfare of mankind. None who have listened to the noble and gallant Lord this afternoon can doubt the sincerity or fail to respect the sincerity of his declared convictions. But the intensity of feeling with which assertions are made is not necessarily proof of their validity. It does not exempt us from examining them on the basis of the available evidence.

The noble Lord has said that what is said in this House goes well beyond the House. It is for that reason that I want to apply myself to three questions which are frequently confused. The first is: has animal experiment led to knowledge which has helped to alleviate suffering, eradicate disease and save human life? The noble Lord has said that even if this were proved, he would still not approve of animal experimentation. But I think we must have an answer to that question, and I hope to be able to demonstrate to your Lordships that there is an overwhelmingly affirmative answer to it which only the woefully ignorant or the wilfully blind will fail to recognise.

The noble and gallant Lord spoke of "so-called therapeutic substances". What are these "so-called therapeutic substances" which have been discovered as the result of animal experimentation, which are standardised and purified by animal experimentation? Let us take first what the noble and gallant Lord referred to in his speech in October, 1952—vaccines and sera. I will quote only three examples. In the South African War, the incidence of typhoid fever was 105 per 1,000 combatants, and the death rate was 40.6 per 1,000. In other words, almost half those who were infected died. Because of the efforts of Sir Almroth Wright, in the First World War the incidence of typhoid fever was 2.35 per 1,000—that is, 45 times less than had been the incidence in the South African war—and the death rate 0.14, which was 300 times less. And that was an expression of the use of prophylactic vaccine.

To bring the matter up to date, many of your Lordships will know that there has been a striking decline both in the incidence of and in the death rate from diphtheria in this country during the last ten to fourteen years. Before that time we had a method which was partially successful in overcoming the most dire effects of diphtheria. Yet, despite the use of anti-toxin, the notifications of diphtheria in this country annually for the period 1932 to 1942 averaged 55,125, and of those cases 2,783 died. Then came the public campaign for active diphtheria immunisation and gradually, with a widening of immunisation, the incidence declined. The last figures which I have are those for 1955, and in that year, as compared with an annual incidence of diphtheria in this country of over 55,000 per annum, there were 155 notified cases of diphtheria. Compared with 2,783 deaths annually from diphtheria there were, in 1955, thirteen deaths, of which ten occurred in children under the age of fifteen. Of those ten, nine had not been immunised and one had been immunised over ten years previously.

It is, therefore, I suggest to your Lordships, fair to assume that in that period of ten years we have saved by active diphtheria immunisation alone at least 25,000 lives, all of which can be laid at the door of those who experimented with animals in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of this method of immunisation. In view of the age group which is involved in diphtheria, I believe firmly that we can hardly measure in terms of human suffering the saving in this country. Those who have had an only child who has succumbed to diphtheria know what human happiness has been lost. The noble and gallant Lord mentioned poliomyelitis. I do not propose to follow him upon the use of monkeys at this stage—it would broaden my thesis too widely. But the noble and gallant Lord knows that by the use of polio vaccine manufactured in this country the incidence of paralytic poliomyelitis has already been reduced to one-fifth in the vaccinated compared with that in the unvaccinated.

It is only in the last twenty years that drugs have become available to combat many of the common infections which assail the inhabitants of this country. The two main groups of drugs are the sulpha drugs and the antibiotics of which penicillin was the prototype. Now we have at our hand methods whereby we can control and eradicate most of the common infections which afflict mankind. Let me again give your Lordships two or three examples. One of the most tragic diseases which we saw, particularly during the First World War, was cerebro-spinal meningitis. In the American Civil War the death rate from cerebro-spinal meningitis was 90 per cent. In the First World War, as a result of the production of anti-meningococcal serum, the death rate was reduced to 30 per cent. During the Second World War, as a result of the exhibition of sulpha drugs, the death rate was reduced to 3 per cent. and in many epidemics was much smaller. Childbed fever or puerperal sepsis, as it is called, showed a distinct decline with the introduction of the sulpha drugs The incidence was about 50 per cent. of what it had been previously, and with the introduction of penicillin, the incidence was one-tenth of what it had been previously.

I do not deny that with many infections measures directed towards improving the public health—housing, good nutrition and the like—have played an important part; but if we take tuberculosis as an example of the value and benefits of antibiotic drugs, the chemo-therapeutic measures during the last five years, the incidence of tuberculosis in certain groups has gone down considerably, and the mortality from tuberculosis in the younger age groups has been reduced since 1949 to between 10 and 20 per cent. of what it was before 1949.

The noble Lord did not mention insulin this afternoon, though he referred to it, and to its convulsive effects, in his last speech to your Lordships. Insulin, however, is par excellence a discovery which owes everything to animal experiment. With insulin came the first of the great conquests of disease in the field of the internal secretory glands. Insulin is used for the control of diabetic mellitus. What was the expectation of life of a diabetic child of ten before the days of insulin? It was a few months; to-day it is forty-five years. A man of thirty who developed diabetes before 1922 could expect to live three or four years if he underwent strict dietetic control, but to-day his expectation of life is almost normal, almost average. Translate that into terms of the saving and prolonging of human life, and what do we find? That at least 200,000 diabetics in this country have had their lives prolonged and are able to lead useful and fruitful lives in the service of the community for a period of twenty, thirty or forty years longer than they otherwise would have the opportunity of doing.

Vitamine experiments have been carried out, and here animal experimentation is essential. What has been the result? The nutrition of this country is better to-day than it has been at any time past. During the war the Government introduced a welfare food scheme which had the result that in this country there were practically no cases of scurvy and rickets; nor have there been many since. We have maintained the welfare food scheme and it has proved a boon, whereas in other countries there has been evidence of growing nutritional deficiency, because there our knowledge has not been applied. But the knowledge came from animal experiments.

I could go on reiterating in the jubilant terms of victory the triumphs of animal experimentation and the contribution it has made to human knowledge and the alleviation of human sufferings. I would but remind your Lordships that the major advances in surgery to-day; the construction of new parts of the heart, the approach to the brain, the excision of the lungs in which there is malignant disease—all these owe practically everything to the knowledge which has been gained from the animal world about the control of infection, the control of hæmorrhage, the control of shock and of anæsthesia. Those who are prepared to proclaim that animal experiment should be banned must be prepared to let their fellow men suffer and succumb to diseases, the secrets of which might well yield in future to animal experiment.

I do not regard animal experiment as the exclusive method of medical investigation, but it is quite indispensable. As the noble Lord has said, it is true that animals do not always manifest the physiological activities of man; indeed, we could hardly expect them to do so. There is a striking example in the history of penicillin, which is toxic to guinea pigs although non-toxic to many other animals; and if the original experiments had been carried out on guinea pigs it might well have been that penicillin would never have been discovered. But it is not the dissimilarities that are important, it is the similarities; and the investigator selects the animal which has the appropriate similarities for the purpose of the experiment or investigation which he proposes to undertake. We are celebrating this year the tercentenary of the death of William Harvey, who put experiment, and the appropriate choice of animals for experiment, into the picture which led to the enormous advances that have been made during the centuries since his day.

Of course there is a certain range of similarity in animals and man. The heart of animals almost throughout the whole of the mammalian series is almost identical in its functions and activities with that of man. It is true that when one approaches certain higher functions—those of the nervous system for example—we have to use the higher primates for experimental purposes. I hasten to explain that in using the word "primate" I am not referring to either of the most reverend Primates who may sit on the Ecclesiastical Benches, but to the anthropoid world. It is those observations that have led to a knowledge of the functions of the brain which has made possible that magnificent work in cerebral surgery—the removal of brain tumours, and of scars following injuries received under epileptic attacks and the like, which the pages of our medical journals in the last twenty-five years record dramatically.

Occasionally, man himself is necessary for the crucial experiment, and man has never hesitated to become the subject of an experiment which might help his fellow men. Those who have read the history of the transmission of yellow fever and other tropical diseases will know that the very people who are alleged to exercise a wanton and cruel outlook to animals in the laboratory have themselves been prepared to sacrifice their own lives in the interests of mankind. And I could quote examples of drugs which have been tried by men and which have ultimately led to enormous improvements in our control of disease. There are experiments, such as the effect of nerve section and the like, which require a conscious man, and such experiments have been carried out on man. There are experiments which require a knowledge of how long sutures remain in the body, and my noble friend Lord Webb-Johnson has carried out those experiments on himself on at least sixty occasions. Can there be any doubt, then, that animal experimentation has led to an enormous increase in the control by man of diseases which befall him?

There is one other question, the second question: is everything done to avoid pain? I will not reiterate—indeed I wish the noble Lord had re-read with the same enthusiasm as he had about the foreign translations of the speeches which he made in your Lordships House—the words which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, spoke in which he dealt convincingly with the accusations about pain made by the noble Lord the mover of this Motion. He detailed the steps which must be taken, the care before certificates are granted, and the method of inspection; and it is wholly wrong to suggest that these are a hollow sham to throw dust in the eyes of the public", if I may quote the words which the noble Lord used.

The noble Lord, Lord Dowding, says that there were in 1955 2½ million experiments; and that is true. But over 2 million of those are simply pin-pricks into animals, or the removal of blood through a pin or needle from an animal; they are superficial, and they are covered by certain certificates under the Act. He suggests that the reason why there have not been prosecutions is that the law is not being carried out. But is it not also possible that those who are licensed under the Act are observing the law? There are many laws under which there have been no prosecutions, and this may well be one of them. Indeed, in 1955 only nine irregularities were recorded, and the inspectors made it perfectly clear that in none of these irregularities had there been any deliberate intention to contravene the Act.

In view of what the noble Lord said about wanton cruelty, I must apply myself to one aspect of this problem. The poet has written: True it is Nature hides Her treasures less and less; Man now presides, In power where once he trembled in his weakness: Science advances with gigantic strides. And then Wordsworth asks: But are we aught enriched in love and meekness? Thirty years' close association with experimental physiologists, bacteriologists and others who seek power over nature and use animal experiments convinces me that they are enriched by their work in love and meekness and in their service to mankind; and they resent—and I use the word "resent" advisedly—any insinuations which suggest that they are callous and indifferent to suffering, wanton and cruel people, quite sadistic in their outlook. I would quote what the Royal Commission of 1912 said on this point. They said: We desire further to state that the harrowing descriptions and illustrations of operations inflicted on animals which are frequently circulated by post, advertisement or otherwise, are in many cases calculated to mislead the public, in so far as they suggest that the animals in question were not under an anæsthetic. To represent that animals subjected to experiments in this country are wantonly tortured would, in our opinion, be absolutely false. Those are the words of the Royal Commission, and I gather that the noble Lord is asking for them to be repeated. We respect the noble Lord's motives. Let him respect the motives of those who undertake these experiments.

It is extremely difficult, as any of the Members of your Lordships' House who have practised the law will know, to rebut a vague charge or a non-specific indictment. If the noble Lord has specific indictments, let him utter them in the right place, and they will be met. But if he has to rely on what the window-cleaner or the butler saw, then I suspect that the evidence is not well founded. To suppose that the most shocking experiments are carried out behind closed doors is, I suggest, to impute motives to others which he would not have imputed to himself; and I suspect that as acceptable a variation of the Golden Rule as many is: Do not impute motives to others which you would not have imputed to you. The noble Lord surrounds his utterances with a number of adjectives with a great emotional content; he speaks of "revolting", of "terrifying" and of "cruel". Something may be revolting, but it may still have to be done. Anyone who has nursed, as I have nursed, certain types of patient has done things which are often revolting, but in the interests of humanity must be done. Anyone witnessing the surgeon at an operation who has not known what happens is terrified by the procedure; but it is not necessarily an inhumane procedure.

I will not argue in this House with the noble Lord on anæsthetics: dial, amytal and urethane are all anæsthetics, and I am prepared to demonstrate on the noble Lord himself that they have anæsthetic properties. Is it really fair at this stage to bring in curare, when the licence itself makes it perfectly clear that no experiment in which curare or other substances having similar curare form can be used without the special permission of the Secretary of State, and forty-eight hours' notice of the performance of every experiment or series of similar experiments so permitted shall be given to the inspector"? I am prepared in this House to say, without fear of contradiction that no wanton cruelty is inflicted on animals during the course of physiological, therapeutic, bacteriological or other scientific investigation.

There is, however, a third question to which the noble Lord referred—namely, the ethical question. On this, if I have taken down the words of the noble Lord accurately, he has made his position perfectly clear. He says: "Even should it be conclusively proved that human beings benefit directly from the suffering of animals, its infliction would, nevertheless, be unethical and wrong". I, and I am sure my colleagues, respect that view, although I would remind the noble Lord and Members of your Lordships' House that it is inevitable that you all benefit from animal experiments, whether you know it or not your pure water supply, your pure food supply and the like are dependent on animal experiment. But the noble Lord must remember that there are others, and they comprise the vast majority of mankind, who conceive that man's prime duty is towards his fellow man. They deplore, as deeply as do the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, and his friends, cruelty to animals, and in this they include experiments which are unnecessary, irrelevant and unjustifiable, and any means which can be devised to ensure that such experiments are not carried out will be acceptable to them.

They believe, however, that our present law, which is much more stringent than the law of any other country in this field, satisfactorily meets, through the methods of certification, the problem of inflicting unnecessary pain. Any of your Lordships who care to go into this question will find that those methods of certification are extremely complicated and difficult, and that the safeguards of inspection make it perfectly char that no wanton cruelty occurs. If the noble Lord wishes to bring specific instances of violation of the law, then they can be investigated; but vague charges and insinuations can never be adequately answered. My colleagues know that the Home Office exercises its statutory responsibility, with a due sense of the gravity and importance of its task, efficiently and effectively. The overwhelming majority of those who, like myself, have engaged in the practice of medicine for thirty years, and have shared in the human suffering and tragedy occasioned by disease, could not endure our daily tasks for long if we were deprived of the hope that that measure—namely, animal experiment, the monumental achievements of which in the past have solved so many of our most difficult problems—would remain. We must know that it will remain an instrument—we have established that it is an indispensable instrument—for the future. The noble Lord said that the windmill of banning animal experiments altogether was beyond the reach of his lance. My last words to-day to your Lordships are: may it ever remain so!

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that I may, without impertinence, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, on a maiden speech which bears so little sign of having been a maiden speech. He has put before your Lordships' House with admirable force and clarity the case for the continuation of experiments on animals in the cause of medical and surgical science; and he has done so with an eloquence which one seldom finds in purely scientific discussions.

When the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, brought forward his Motion in much the same terms in 1952, I ventured to address your Lordships' House, not because I am a scientist but because I was for many years closely associated with the Research Defence Society, which originated as a result of the Royal Commission of 1906 as a means of defence against the activities of certain anti-vivisectionist societies, which were at that time strongly militant. I have no desire to enter on to the wide field which has been so admirably covered by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. I merely wish to repeat, on behalf of my associates in that Society, that they themselves are always ready to admit that the Act to which the noble and gallant Lord has referred is out of date. It is of old standing and requires in some measure to be brought up to date. They would not object to that. But they would protest very strongly indeed against the introduction of any measure which would in any way curtail the possibility of recourse to experiments on animals, because they regard these as having been indispensable in the progress of medical and surgical science and as the means of bringing incalculable benefits, not only to mankind but also to the animal kingdom.

A good deal is now known in this country, owing to the efforts of scientists, of some of the facts to which the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, has referred—the facts regarding the progress that has been made in combating diseases in mankind and in aiding the science of surgery. But not enough is known of what has been done for the animal world, and perhaps it is only those who have seen something of the effective means that have been taken to meet the great scourges of epidemics in Asia and in Africa who are able to speak with any confidence or warmth on that subject. Much has been said of the harm and the wickedness of injury to animals. There is not a scientist, I am convinced, who would support anything like a wilful infliction of pain, but let us not forget what has been done for the animal world, for whom the anti-vivisectionists show such tender care.

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for long, since I know we all wish to be elsewhere very soon, but I cannot let this debate pass without saying a few words in support of the noble Lord's Motion. Humanitarians, and those who hold strong views on this subject, are apt, I think, to be regarded as fanatics—and sometimes, possibly, not without reason. There are a great many who are a little unbalanced in their views on this subject and who take every opportunity of making their views public, but unfortunately those who remain a little more silent on the question are labelled with the same label. I hope that I have a slightly more balanced view on the subject than the extremists, and I wish to say at once that I have the greatest respect for both the medical and the scientific professions, and that I am certainly not willing to cast any aspersions on either of them.

We must, I think, look certain facts straight in the face. First of all, we must see that we do not avoid looking these facts in the face by that great barrier to any improvement, indifference. We must examine the facts, pro and con, and come to a logical conclusion. Vivisection, of course, is an activity, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, said, which does not generally come before the public eye, and a good deal of what goes on in these laboratories is unknown. The noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, if I understood him aright, suggested that a great many of these circulars which are sent round by the anti-vivisectionist societies and so on, are merely vague charges, and should not be taken seriously. May I suggest to him, with all due respect, that those charges are not made without careful investigation and could, on application to those societies, be proved absolutely up to the hilt?

There is no doubt, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, has said, that 250,000 monkeys are exported from India every year for experiments, and that 2½ million experiments on all animals take place in this country each year. If these experiments are justified by a wholesale alleviation of disease, then to a point—a very limited point, may I make it quite clear—they are justifiable In saying that, I would also add the comment that the doctrine "to do evil that good may come" is a very dangerous one to adopt, because, if one carries it to its logical conclusion, one finds perfectly good justification for all the atrocities that have ever taken place on the earth, from mediæval times to the present day. So I think that is certainly an attitude to be avoided. On the other hand, as I say, if the scientific profession finds it impossible to alleviate human disease without these experiments, and is convinced that, with the experiments, it can alleviate them, then I would say that a limited amount of experiment, under very strict supervision and control, is justifiable.

When we look round the world to-day, however, are we really convinced, in spite of the figures which the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, gave us in his most able speech, that disease has been alleviated so very much? Certainly, I do not remember that as a boy I was aware of the infantile paralysis among adults which is quite commonplace to-day. Though I am no scientist, I have been told on authority that some of these sera which are injected to cure one disease will also kill certain organisms which are preventives of other diseases. So that in removing one evil they open the door to another. I cannot prove that to your Lordships, because, as I say, I am no scientist, but I was told that by one who is, and one whose word I can trust, and I therefore take that as being the case. Cancer, for instance, is a disease that does not seem to be reduced very much. I cannot say that it is any less common a disease to-day than it was, say, twenty years ago. If twenty years of experiments on 2½ million animals per year can effect no more than a minor reduction of a disease, then I say that those experiments are not justifiable.

As to the better nutrition of children, surely that is a matter of common sense, and of better food and living conditions which any sensible parents, having been educated as to the upbringing of their children, at once apply. I do not think that one can attribute to these experiments with animals any improvements in the welfare of our children to-day. On the ethical question, I must say that I agree entirely with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding. If experiments are necessary, then we must face the fact that we must do our utmost to see that the unfortunate victims of those experiments do not suffer. That they do suffer very much is perfectly provable to people who do not—as I am afraid a great many who support this activity are apt to do—close their eyes to certain facts merely because they are undesirable facts which they do not wish to admit. My Lords, I support this Motion very warmly.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I rise only for a moment, because I think there is a considerable measure of agreement here. I think that everybody recognises that experiments are necessary, but there is some doubt whether the experiments are being conducted in the most auspicious circumstances. I should have thought that, after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, there could be no shadow of doubt that everything possible is done both to alleviate suffering on the part of animals and to get the benefit of the result of the experiments. In these matters, it is largely a conflict of right and right. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, we know, is perfectly sincere and made a most moving statement. But is it not the fact that we have to ensure that the results of our efforts are, in the end, the least possible suffering to life? It may even be necessary to inflict a certain amount of suffering on a few in order to benefit a large number.

My main purpose in rising, however, is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, on a most remarkable maiden speech. The noble Lord, Lord Hailey, said he could hardly realise that it was a maiden speech, but I am assured that it was. I doubt whether I have ever heard a more impressive maiden speech in this House than that of the noble, Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. It is traditional to express the hope that he will speak again on many occasions. I should like to say that not only is he to be congratulated, but this House is to be congratulated upon a most valuable acquisition. I hope that we shall often hear from him, not only on these specialised subjects but on many others to which I am quite sure he will have a valuable contribution to make.